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Here is a question that remained unanswered for me about Roman imperial coins: why so many right facing busts and almost never the emperor turned to the left? Here are some assumptions. Anyone with some knowledge of the Latin language will have guessed that the left side does not exactly have a good reputation among the Romans. The term is in fact said to be sinister (as opposed to dextra - the right). It has spread into many languages, giving for example the word "sinistre" in French. All because of the augurs, a religious college that interpreted the flight of birds to read the omens sent by the Gods. To sum up, before an important decision, the augurs observed the sky: if the birds came from the right, the Gods were favorable; if they came from the left, the omen was unfavorable. It is clear that the left side was deemed bad, harmful.

Another theory is that the left has a negative connotation, because of the link that the Ancients established with shadow or darkness. Look at a Roman map: the four cardinal points are laid out as we still know them today, so that on the right is East and on the left is West. If you look towards the North, the sun therefore rises on the right hand, and disappears on the left hand: from the right comes light and heat, which disappears on the left, generating darkness and cold. Proponents of this theory also argue that the Latin term scaevus (left, or clumsy...), an earlier adjective apparently of the same etymological origin, comes from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "shadow".

What about lefties in all this? They were, in a way, the collateral victims of the Romans' aversion to everything related to their favorite side. By extension, they were first seen as disadvantaged by the Gods and therefore unlucky, then they were considered clumsy and finally, they were mistrusted because they were reputed to be crafty and disloyal. At the birth of a child, when the latter seemed to favor his left hand to the detriment of the right, his left arm was bandaged along his body to prevent him from using it, and to encourage him to use the right !

But there were some exceptions; we can assume that the Emperor Tiberius was left-handed, according to a passage from Suetonius:

"Tiberius was strong, sturdy, and above the ordinary height. Broad in shoulders and chest, he had, from head to toe, all limbs well proportioned. His left hand was more agile and more stronger than the right. Its joints were so strong that it pierced a freshly picked apple with its finger, and with a flick it wounded a child and even an adult in the head." (Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius", 68.)

The Emperor Commodus also proclaimed loud and clear that a was a leftie, which allowed him to highlight his exploits as a gladiator:

"He fought as a gladiator. He devoted himself to the exercises of this profession and used the armor of those called secutores, the shield in his right arm and the wooden sword in his left hand; for he was proud of 'to be left-handed'. (Dion Cassius, "Roman History", LXXII - 19.)

On at least 95% of Roman imperial coins, we will find on the obverse the bust of the Emperor facing right ( exception on Probus’ coinage). But the reason why there were scarce or rare left facing bust remains a mystery. During the time of the Severans, almost all busts were right facing. But with the arrival of the 3rd century left facing busts began to slowly reappear. One reason for showing the bust facing left is to indicate a consular or martial purpose. This type was not rare during the time of Probus and continues into the Tetrarchy and the Constantinian era. Let’s notice that the left facing helmeted military busts of Constantine from the mint of London during the right star issue can be more common comprising around 10% of the issue discovered in hoards. It also seems that in this period of time these left busts were used with younger rulers for honoring their first appearance on coinage. During the minting of the FEL TEMP REPARATIO issue, the left facing bust was indicating the middle of three denominations. Since I’m collecting Gallic rulers coins, I know for sure that left facing busts are hard to find and very expensive… That’s the reason why I was very excited to acquire this Victorinus’ specimen, with the added bonus of an heroic bust type. All known examples are from the same pair of dies, and you only see one for sale every 10 years; a handful are in the hands of private collectors.

926A7B2E-CC35-48AD-BF2B-D12B5F8F00C5.jpeg.52f674005f2a470473f58c4bc3dc6dc2.jpeg

Trier  18mm  2.48g

IMP C VICTORINVS·P·F·AVG / PAX AVG

Pax holding olive branch & long transverse sceptre

 

I’d really love to see your own examples, and I’m wondering how many Emperors we can show off here. Please show me your coins !

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I think your explanations are very accurate. Being left handed was also considered a disadvantage many centuries after the Roman Empire. I remember reading Don Quijote and the main character was explaining to Sancho that it's a great shame to be left handed.

Here are some examples of left facing busts in my collection - a feature I consider an advantage as it is a simple way of getting out of the pattern:

Gallienus

image.png.4a8a8b04513edce11f550f637c0e1924.png

Constantine II

image.png.db09421e3cf3354e92a115f8855bd5de.png

Constantius I

image.png.1570efd490f845c81365441713fd594e.png

VRBS ROMA

image.png.9111feae67c7b886224a6d966c5d55f4.png

 

Commodus

image.png.2a22aadc8817a8b5c6c45375d57b9924.png

Divus Augustus

image.png.a399dbd89cae429027aad014b58c3d67.png

Claudius

image.png.d8fc431772d3febff19af0c08c91a4cd.png

image.png.e840969650db6c7b6e8e6d8dc0a2f0b5.png

(apparently Claudius didn't have this superstition as much as others)

Probus

image.png.47ff18f2c39fd59bade432afdd463a2d.png

Constantinopolis commemorative

image.png.674fb87b9b4ceab5ecb6715e1ba3a79d.png

Procopius

image.png.98fac31c8a74bd534383277977bba1fe.png

Domitian

image.png.d58e589ec5e876f9762f5a3827f902d0.png

Artabanus (if a Parthian coin is also accepted)

image.png.dc2269f22b03f91c6781df6386b486e6.png

Constantine I

image.png.1b73f378b09a81323b235d73ff9c1068.png

 

 

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Left-facing busts are very unusual on Antonine coins. I seek them out for my Faustina I and II collection. I have about ten. Here's one I haven't posted at this forum before.

119183947_FaustinaSrIVNONIREGINAEPeacockunderThronedenariusleft-facingbust.jpg.cde48f7cb83b89524a991c2e2e2e2088.jpg
Faustina I, AD 138-140.
Roman AR denarius, 3.17 g, 17.3 mm, 12 h.
Rome, AD 140.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, left.
Rev: IVNONI REGINAE, Throne, against which rests transverse sceptre; below, peacock with tail spread.
Refs: RIC 339b; BMC 143; Cohen 220 (no collection cited); Strack 405 (citing BMC and Reka Devnia); Reka Devnia 1313; RCV --; CRE 132.

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1 hour ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

Here is a question that remained unanswered for me about Roman imperial coins: why so many right facing busts and almost never the emperor turned to the left? Here are some assumptions. Anyone with some knowledge of the Latin language will have guessed that the left side does not exactly have a good reputation among the Romans. The term is in fact said to be sinister (as opposed to dextra - the right). It has spread into many languages, giving for example the word "sinistre" in French. All because of the augurs, a religious college that interpreted the flight of birds to read the omens sent by the Gods. To sum up, before an important decision, the augurs observed the sky: if the birds came from the right, the Gods were favorable; if they came from the left, the omen was unfavorable. It is clear that the left side was deemed bad, harmful.

Another theory is that the left has a negative connotation, because of the link that the Ancients established with shadow or darkness. Look at a Roman map: the four cardinal points are laid out as we still know them today, so that on the right is East and on the left is West. If you look towards the North, the sun therefore rises on the right hand, and disappears on the left hand: from the right comes light and heat, which disappears on the left, generating darkness and cold. Proponents of this theory also argue that the Latin term scaevus (left, or clumsy...), an earlier adjective apparently of the same etymological origin, comes from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "shadow".

What about lefties in all this? They were, in a way, the collateral victims of the Romans' aversion to everything related to their favorite side. By extension, they were first seen as disadvantaged by the Gods and therefore unlucky, then they were considered clumsy and finally, they were mistrusted because they were reputed to be crafty and disloyal. At the birth of a child, when the latter seemed to favor his left hand to the detriment of the right, his left arm was bandaged along his body to prevent him from using it, and to encourage him to use the right !

But there were some exceptions; we can assume that the Emperor Tiberius was left-handed, according to a passage from Suetonius:

"Tiberius was strong, sturdy, and above the ordinary height. Broad in shoulders and chest, he had, from head to toe, all limbs well proportioned. His left hand was more agile and more stronger than the right. Its joints were so strong that it pierced a freshly picked apple with its finger, and with a flick it wounded a child and even an adult in the head." (Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius", 68.)

The Emperor Commodus also proclaimed loud and clear that a was a leftie, which allowed him to highlight his exploits as a gladiator:

"He fought as a gladiator. He devoted himself to the exercises of this profession and used the armor of those called secutores, the shield in his right arm and the wooden sword in his left hand; for he was proud of 'to be left-handed'. (Dion Cassius, "Roman History", LXXII - 19.)

On at least 95% of Roman imperial coins, we will find on the obverse the bust of the Emperor facing right ( exception on Probus’ coinage). But the reason why there were scarce or rare left facing bust remains a mystery. During the time of the Severans, almost all busts were right facing. But with the arrival of the 3rd century left facing busts began to slowly reappear. One reason for showing the bust facing left is to indicate a consular or martial purpose. This type was not rare during the time of Probus and continues into the Tetrarchy and the Constantinian era. Let’s notice that the left facing helmeted military busts of Constantine from the mint of London during the right star issue can be more common comprising around 10% of the issue discovered in hoards. It also seems that in this period of time these left busts were used with younger rulers for honoring their first appearance on coinage. During the minting of the FEL TEMP REPARATIO issue, the left facing bust was indicating the middle of three denominations. Since I’m collecting Gallic rulers coins, I know for sure that left facing busts are hard to find and very expensive… That’s the reason why I was very excited to acquire this Victorinus’ specimen, with the added bonus of an heroic bust type. All known examples are from the same pair of dies, and you only see one for sale every 10 years; a handful are in the hands of private collectors.

926A7B2E-CC35-48AD-BF2B-D12B5F8F00C5.jpeg.52f674005f2a470473f58c4bc3dc6dc2.jpeg

Trier  18mm  2.48g

IMP C VICTORINVS·P·F·AVG / PAX AVG

Pax holding olive branch & long transverse sceptre

 

I’d really love to see your own examples, and I’m wondering how many Emperors we can show off here. Please show me your coins !

Dominic, thanks for the interesting writeup, I never gave the subject much thought ☺️. I never went out of my way to buy lefties except for the large nummi coins of the 1st tetrarchy, they seem to command a hefty premium at auction. Pictured below are some of my lefties.

898110626_2491170-016AKCollection.jpg.69f6f56fabceea7b56aa39565056b563.jpg

1704373522_2491170-017AKCollection.jpg.9d6e4fc2ebf054869366318bb59350b5.jpg

73310896_2491170-026AKCollection.jpg.b0c89214d06c0e6fe2444a04fa65893b.jpg

1286841659_NGC4094373-002AlKowskyCollection.jpg.48e60e7bdadcded433147c0e0a2428be.jpg

1117374027_2491169-009AKCollection.jpg.bb5597b160ef360c3b75333825c7eb85.jpg

125170863_3482310-024AKCollection.jpg.095b56a3f358bc4945093b378ca0eb47.jpg

874342487_4885363-005AKCollection.jpg.5913921b666f8f4f81a652c58bff7ef8.jpg

541859061_NGC3988264-003AlKowskyCollection.jpg.c8c8bac1b92ac6b2b816edcf568235ab.jpg

1957352373_4885363-049McAlee1021AAWKCollection.jpg.7265069dca5291bbe28fc4ec579d476a.jpg

2007005810_NGC4277731-043AlKowskyCollection.jpg.fe88fe8c49b67474ef8db8a872c49519.jpg

1228965057_NGC5767882-158EpfigHoardAlKowskyCollection.jpg.8394a2b3d9bb881be024d987366b9545.jpg

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1 hour ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

Here is a question that remained unanswered for me about Roman imperial coins: why so many right facing busts and almost never the emperor turned to the left? Here are some assumptions. Anyone with some knowledge of the Latin language will have guessed that the left side does not exactly have a good reputation among the Romans. The term is in fact said to be sinister (as opposed to dextra - the right). It has spread into many languages, giving for example the word "sinistre" in French. All because of the augurs, a religious college that interpreted the flight of birds to read the omens sent by the Gods. To sum up, before an important decision, the augurs observed the sky: if the birds came from the right, the Gods were favorable; if they came from the left, the omen was unfavorable. It is clear that the left side was deemed bad, harmful.

Another theory is that the left has a negative connotation, because of the link that the Ancients established with shadow or darkness. Look at a Roman map: the four cardinal points are laid out as we still know them today, so that on the right is East and on the left is West. If you look towards the North, the sun therefore rises on the right hand, and disappears on the left hand: from the right comes light and heat, which disappears on the left, generating darkness and cold. Proponents of this theory also argue that the Latin term scaevus (left, or clumsy...), an earlier adjective apparently of the same etymological origin, comes from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "shadow".

What about lefties in all this? They were, in a way, the collateral victims of the Romans' aversion to everything related to their favorite side. By extension, they were first seen as disadvantaged by the Gods and therefore unlucky, then they were considered clumsy and finally, they were mistrusted because they were reputed to be crafty and disloyal. At the birth of a child, when the latter seemed to favor his left hand to the detriment of the right, his left arm was bandaged along his body to prevent him from using it, and to encourage him to use the right !

But there were some exceptions; we can assume that the Emperor Tiberius was left-handed, according to a passage from Suetonius:

"Tiberius was strong, sturdy, and above the ordinary height. Broad in shoulders and chest, he had, from head to toe, all limbs well proportioned. His left hand was more agile and more stronger than the right. Its joints were so strong that it pierced a freshly picked apple with its finger, and with a flick it wounded a child and even an adult in the head." (Suetonius, "Life of Tiberius", 68.)

The Emperor Commodus also proclaimed loud and clear that a was a leftie, which allowed him to highlight his exploits as a gladiator:

"He fought as a gladiator. He devoted himself to the exercises of this profession and used the armor of those called secutores, the shield in his right arm and the wooden sword in his left hand; for he was proud of 'to be left-handed'. (Dion Cassius, "Roman History", LXXII - 19.)

On at least 95% of Roman imperial coins, we will find on the obverse the bust of the Emperor facing right ( exception on Probus’ coinage). But the reason why there were scarce or rare left facing bust remains a mystery. During the time of the Severans, almost all busts were right facing. But with the arrival of the 3rd century left facing busts began to slowly reappear. One reason for showing the bust facing left is to indicate a consular or martial purpose. This type was not rare during the time of Probus and continues into the Tetrarchy and the Constantinian era. Let’s notice that the left facing helmeted military busts of Constantine from the mint of London during the right star issue can be more common comprising around 10% of the issue discovered in hoards. It also seems that in this period of time these left busts were used with younger rulers for honoring their first appearance on coinage. During the minting of the FEL TEMP REPARATIO issue, the left facing bust was indicating the middle of three denominations. Since I’m collecting Gallic rulers coins, I know for sure that left facing busts are hard to find and very expensive… That’s the reason why I was very excited to acquire this Victorinus’ specimen, with the added bonus of an heroic bust type. All known examples are from the same pair of dies, and you only see one for sale every 10 years; a handful are in the hands of private collectors.

926A7B2E-CC35-48AD-BF2B-D12B5F8F00C5.jpeg.52f674005f2a470473f58c4bc3dc6dc2.jpeg

Trier  18mm  2.48g

IMP C VICTORINVS·P·F·AVG / PAX AVG

Pax holding olive branch & long transverse sceptre

 

I’d really love to see your own examples, and I’m wondering how many Emperors we can show off here. Please show me your coins !

Dominic, Congrats on joining this new website 🤩! I always enjoyed your writeups on the CoinTalk website & think you'll enjoy this one too 😉.

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Glad you brought up this topic, I've wondered about this a lot, and spent some hours looking around for what others say.

I recently bought a pair of left-facing Flavian denarii (from CNG, previously Orfew collection, which I thought might contain an over-representation of leftward facing busts, perhaps because he has a predilection for scarcities and rarities?):

image.jpeg.b18bf8a2f3932ae20910dcc2cce8fc11.jpeg

It seems the preference for right-facing obverses might’ve begun very early in coinage, long before the Romans (with right-facing Athena on the late 6th cent. BCE Athenian tetradrachms, and the right-facing lion on the mid-6th BCE Electrum Trites/Hemihektes of Lydian Kings c. Alyattes).

But I think the answer may be similar for Greek & Roman. As you say: Right is good luck. As I pointed out in my other, related thread (leftward reverses), there is probably a degree of “institutional inertia” as well. Cities and Kingdoms and Moneyers wanted their coins to fit the accepted forms of the previous coinage.

It also had the same connotation of being "forward-looking," in the same sense of looking east toward the sunrise and the future. From Stevenson’s (1889, p 588) Dictionary of Roman Coins, the word Oriens “was used by the Romans to designate either that part of the world where the sun appears to rise, or some province of the empire situate[d] towards the East; or the Sun itself.” So -- back to Imperial Rome -- Aurelian's Oriens Augusti was proclaiming "A New Morning" for Rome, as in, the East is the future. (I don't have the references, but I checked, and they did think of right as East and left as West, just as we do today, at least in the northern hemisphere.)

A similar phenomenon occurs with Left-Facing Reverses. (I don't have the numbers handy, but I've seen it quantified.) That veers into different enough territory I decided to post separately here: https://www.numisforums.com/topic/792-left-facing-reverses-and-seated-left-imagery-4th-bce-to-5th-ce-zeus-athena-roma-its-all-baal/

[EDIT: OKAY GOT RID OF UNINTENDED EXTRA PHOTOS! OOPS!]

Edited by Curtis JJ
Accidental extras
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Galerius. Lyon mint. 303AD

MAXIMIANVS NOB C Bust of Galerius, laureate, cuirassed, left

GENIO POP-VLI ROMANI or GENIO POPV-LI ROMANI: Genius, wearing modius, nude, chlamys draped over left shoulder, standing left, holding patera in right hand and cornucopiae in left hand

 

736b.png

Edited by rhj959
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Maximian. Trier. 289AD. RIC VI 288. 

IMP MAXIMIANVS P F AVG: Bust of Maximian, laureate, helmeted, cuirassed, left, holding sceptre in right hand and shield in left hand

GENIO POPV-LI ROMANI or GENIO POP-VLI ROMANI: Genius, wearing modius, nude, chlamys draped over left shoulder, standing left, holding patera in right hand and cornucopiae in left hand

292b.png

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3 hours ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

Please show me your coins !

image.png.f27c0b56266c0d7aabd7f0d7bca7c4d4.png

 

Gordianus III, 21mm, 4,47g, RIC 172, Silver Antoninianus from Antiochia, Armoured bust with Balteus and Trabea to the left, seen from the front, IMP CAES M ANT GORDIANVS AVG, Providentia to the left, with spear and globe, PM TRP II COS PP

 

 

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https://content.invisioncic.com/k321387/monthly_2022_06/1934026879_EXITNOW.jpg.e558c99a0c9cb0b933c536ecdb061bc7.jpg

 

Faustina Jr CONCORDIA seated denarius left-facing bust.jpg

Faustina II, AD 147-175.
Roman AR denarius, 2.95 g, 17.1 mm, 1 h.
Rome, autumn 154-early 155.
Obv: FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, bare-headed and draped bust left.
Rev: CONCORDIA, Concordia seated left, holding flower and resting elbow on cornucopiae set on globe under chair.
Refs: RIC 502b; BMCRE 1086 n.; Cohen 55; RCV –; Strack 506; CRE 171.
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Posted (edited)

Welcome, @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix! Great to see you here.

The only Imperial denarii I have with left-facing obverses are these two coins from Hadrian's Travel Series (out of the seven I own), recently posted in another thread:

image.jpeg.0031e788f799c25591a1c54c0fa60126.jpeg

 image.jpeg.6a5dcb78159235f12830ddc4b1228cbb.jpeg

As for antoniniani, before Probus -- for whom all four of my antoniniani have left-facing obverses -- the only left-facing obverse I have is this example from Gallienus, minted in Antioch:

 

image.png.fe4d71a5c40f669a1cc9cfb835a81c9a.png

So, for Imperial denarii and for antoniniani, the statement that the Emperor's head is "almost never" turned to the left before Probus appears to be true for my coins.  (For Roman Republican denarii, a quick look at my tray suggests that left-facing obverses were a bit more common than "almost never" -- they comprise a bit less than 10% of the ones I own.)

All the proffered explanations seem reasonable. But: why didn't this overwhelming prevalence of right-facing obverses seem to apply to Julio-Claudian bronzes, for the same reasons? Almost all of my Imperial bronze asses from that period are left-facing:

Augustus:

image.jpeg.ae2cc8745314280ee091eba64938a0ca.jpeg

Agrippa:

image.jpeg.a9cd6549f2fbb65c11c6ae46e5451bf1.jpeg

Germanicus:

image.jpeg.a7db13cb7d0161c246f81071e120278e.jpeg

Drusus Minor:

image.jpeg.3fa15b1a3080d7345cf3cef1207c7b26.jpeg

Caligula:

image.jpeg.e1894a99c44923989f70f29c28b68184.jpeg

Claudius:

image.jpeg.f2ac1584a8ee2db6375c343a8daed1fd.jpeg

image.jpeg.9c8bbb580a5491df7d743ef6efcbdcb6.jpeg

Oddly enough, although it seems that Tiberius may have been left-handed, my only bronze as of Tiberius faces right:

image.jpeg.ae856e68dbcb6ea1b457041bc5558830.jpeg

In any event, there must be some explanation for why the proportions were seemingly different under the Julio-Claudians -- but only for bronzes, not for denarii. It seems unlikely that the apparent difference is a coincidence, and purely a product of the coins I've happened to buy.

 

Edited by DonnaML
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51 minutes ago, DonnaML said:

... But: why didn't this overwhelming prevalence of right-facing obverses seem to apply to Julio-Claudian bronzes, for the same reasons? Almost all of my Imperial bronze asses from that period are left-facing:

Augustus:

image.jpeg.ae2cc8745314280ee091eba64938a0ca.jpeg

Agrippa:

image.jpeg.a9cd6549f2fbb65c11c6ae46e5451bf1.jpeg

Germanicus:

image.jpeg.a7db13cb7d0161c246f81071e120278e.jpeg

Drusus Minor:

image.jpeg.3fa15b1a3080d7345cf3cef1207c7b26.jpeg

Caligula:

image.jpeg.e1894a99c44923989f70f29c28b68184.jpeg

Claudius:

image.jpeg.f2ac1584a8ee2db6375c343a8daed1fd.jpeg

image.jpeg.9c8bbb580a5491df7d743ef6efcbdcb6.jpeg

Oddly enough, although it seems that Tiberius may have been left-handed, my only bronze as of Tiberius faces right:

image.jpeg.ae856e68dbcb6ea1b457041bc5558830.jpeg

In any event, there must be some explanation for why the proportions were seemingly different under the Julio-Claudians -- but only for bronzes, not for denarii. It seems unlikely that the apparent difference is a coincidence, and purely a product of the coins I've happened to buy.

 

That's very interesting & a good question. I've never noticed that. I wonder if it has to do with the denomination? Maybe there wasn't a strict rule, but on case by case basis, to help distinguish the As from Sestertius or similar? (I also wondered about the dead being portrayed left, since i think most of those are posthumous portraits, but that doesn't apply to the Claudius or the [awesome] Caligula.)

Edited by Curtis JJ
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28 minutes ago, Curtis JJ said:

That's very interesting & a good question. I've never noticed that. I wonder if it has to do with the denomination? Maybe there wasn't a strict rule, but on case by case basis, to help distinguish the As from Sestertius or similar? (I also wondered about the dead being portrayed left, since i think most of those are posthumous portraits, but that doesn't apply to the Claudius or the [awesome] Caligula.)

fyi, the Augustus isn't posthumous either.

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  I believe the subject of the left facing bust is rather long and complicated. Before I start I should make the caveat that what I am saying is the process in general. It does not pertain to some specific instances of which there are plenty of examples. Generally in the Greek series the vast majority of Gods are depicted facing right. There are some exceptions most notably Herakles who is often seen facing left. This may be a reference to his semi divine status. However during the late classic and early Hellenistic periods  we see a shift in the treatment of the gods. They can be seen on the reverses of coins and often they face to the left. This is because on most occasions the adjunct symbol eg the eagle of Zeus or the trident of Poseidon is being carried in the right hand of the god in a raised position. It the image was seen from the right it is likely that these adjunct symbols would have the potential of partially obscuring the face.   This could lead to some confusion among the target audience as other attributes of the gods could include as again in the case of Zeus the fact that he is a mature bearded male . Furthermore with the right side being thrust forward the composition becomes simpler. Zeus holding his eagle before him allows his scepter to be held behind him, balancing the composition. 

  When examining the left facing portraits of the late third and early fourth century Emperors I am struck by the fact that the same problem exists and is answered more or less in the same manner. Instead of an adjunct symbol the emperor is carrying a spear often seen over his shoulder, a victory or an eagle tipped scepter. Again had these images faced right it is possible that some of these items may obscure the face. Furthmore with the right side being thrust forward it allows the composition to be more balanced. 

Constantine I Ae Follis Siscia 318-319 AD Obv Helmeted bust right cuirassed with spear over right shoulder and shield bearing a mounted rider on his left. Rv. Rv Altar flanked by two victories inscribing a shield between them  RIC 56 var 2.85 grms 18 mm Photo by W. Hansen

conmag314.jpg.a7e4b594807c722e73b5311d253cbe34.jpg

This coin does illustrate some of the things I am trying to convey. The spear being held in his right hand is seen behind his head and does not have the potential of obscuring the face. The hand though foreshortened and somewhat smaller than it should be is still none the less more in scale than it would be if the image was reversed. The upper body of the emperor is seen with the shield being seen further to our right. Thus it again does not obscure the face and does give a nice rendition of the blazon which is upon it.  Despite many flaws this image is nicely balanced.

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4 hours ago, kapphnwn said:

  I believe the subject of the left facing bust is rather long and complicated. Before I start I should make the caveat that what I am saying is the process in general. It does not pertain to some specific instances of which there are plenty of examples. Generally in the Greek series the vast majority of Gods are depicted facing right. There are some exceptions most notably Herakles who is often seen facing left. This may be a reference to his semi divine status. However during the late classic and early Hellenistic periods  we see a shift in the treatment of the gods. They can be seen on the reverses of coins and often they face to the left. This is because on most occasions the adjunct symbol eg the eagle of Zeus or the trident of Poseidon is being carried in the right hand of the god in a raised position. It the image was seen from the right it is likely that these adjunct symbols would have the potential of partially obscuring the face.   This could lead to some confusion among the target audience as other attributes of the gods could include as again in the case of Zeus the fact that he is a mature bearded male . Furthermore with the right side being thrust forward the composition becomes simpler. Zeus holding his eagle before him allows his scepter to be held behind him, balancing the composition. 

  When examining the left facing portraits of the late third and early fourth century Emperors I am struck by the fact that the same problem exists and is answered more or less in the same manner. Instead of an adjunct symbol the emperor is carrying a spear often seen over his shoulder, a victory or an eagle tipped scepter. Again had these images faced right it is possible that some of these items may obscure the face. Furthmore with the right side being thrust forward it allows the composition to be more balanced. 

Constantine I Ae Follis Siscia 318-319 AD Obv Helmeted bust right cuirassed with spear over right shoulder and shield bearing a mounted rider on his left. Rv. Rv Altar flanked by two victories inscribing a shield between them  RIC 56 var 2.85 grms 18 mm Photo by W. Hansen

conmag314.jpg.a7e4b594807c722e73b5311d253cbe34.jpg

This coin does illustrate some of the things I am trying to convey. The spear being held in his right hand is seen behind his head and does not have the potential of obscuring the face. The hand though foreshortened and somewhat smaller than it should be is still none the less more in scale than it would be if the image was reversed. The upper body of the emperor is seen with the shield being seen further to our right. Thus it again does not obscure the face and does give a nice rendition of the blazon which is upon it.  Despite many flaws this image is nicely balanced.

The shield decoration makes this coin a standout 🤩!

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What about some left-facing Sestertii:

1.png.f8b5354558b42c1adcf8433dbbd5c8d9.png

NERO CLAVDIVS DRVSVS GERMANICVS IMP - bare head of Drusus left /

TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG P M TR P IMP S C - Claudius (?), bare-headed and togate, seated left on curule chair amidst arms, holding branch in extended right hand Orichalcum

Sestertius, Rome mint, ca. AD 41-42

35 mm / 23,88 / 6 h

35 mm; 23,88 g; 6 h

RIC 93; BMCRE 157; CBN 125; Cohen 8; Sear 1896

2.png.2b072c233398d0595d247e8d44f92cb2.png

NERO CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG GER P M TR P IMP P P - Laureate head of Nero to left /

DECVRSIO S C - Nero on horse galloping to right, holding spear, accompanied by soldier riding to right behind with vexillum over shoulder

Sestertius, Rome mint 64 A.D.

35mm / 25.64g / 6h

RIC I 171; BMCRE 145 (same dies), Cohen 84, Cayon 106

Edited by Julius Germanicus
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8 hours ago, kapphnwn said:

The spear being held in his right hand is seen behind his head and does not have the potential of obscuring the face. The hand though foreshortened and somewhat smaller than it should be is still none the less more in scale than it would be if the image was reversed. The upper body of the emperor is seen with the shield being seen further to our right. Thus it again does not obscure the face and does give a nice rendition of the blazon which is upon it.

This a great explanation! If left-handedness was the norm rather than right-handedness, then I think we'd be seeing busts with adjuncts facing right rather than left, but as it is these left facing busts neatly put the dominant right hand holding a spear or sceptre behind the bust rather than obscuring it, and allow the shield to face the viewer allowing it to be used as a canvas.

image.png.750831341d0b9b074fc8dd46eb8e13b0.png

image.png.d0f86cc32f92073cd57bb92b2d0d8836.png

 

Even in cases such as Constantine's "Trier billion" (above), or the middle Fel Temp denomination, where the left facing bust helps serve as a denomination differentiator, we also have adjuncts in both cases. Perhaps on the Trier billion it's the important adjuncts forcing the left facing bust, while on the FTR denomination it's more the left facing bust allowing the adjunct.

image.png.36eaaa371a625b6c6017ae3ca929abad.png

Here's another example, similar to the one @kapphnwn showed, with spear and shield adjuncts on a left facing bust, contrasted with what happens when we have a rare spear and shield on a right facing bust (bottom coin, not mine, ex. CNG 74.490) - we see the back of the shield and have the raised adjunct-holding right hand being forced to cross the bust.

image.png.7e8291026bae99412e2c704e0e4de6b3.png

image.png.9eebc5ad67a90577e4c1ad67a42e23f0.png

 

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9 hours ago, kapphnwn said:

  I believe the subject of the left facing bust is rather long and complicated. Before I start I should make the caveat that what I am saying is the process in general. It does not pertain to some specific instances of which there are plenty of examples. Generally in the Greek series the vast majority of Gods are depicted facing right. There are some exceptions most notably Herakles who is often seen facing left. This may be a reference to his semi divine status. However during the late classic and early Hellenistic periods  we see a shift in the treatment of the gods. They can be seen on the reverses of coins and often they face to the left. This is because on most occasions the adjunct symbol eg the eagle of Zeus or the trident of Poseidon is being carried in the right hand of the god in a raised position. It the image was seen from the right it is likely that these adjunct symbols would have the potential of partially obscuring the face.   This could lead to some confusion among the target audience as other attributes of the gods could include as again in the case of Zeus the fact that he is a mature bearded male . Furthermore with the right side being thrust forward the composition becomes simpler. Zeus holding his eagle before him allows his scepter to be held behind him, balancing the composition. 

  When examining the left facing portraits of the late third and early fourth century Emperors I am struck by the fact that the same problem exists and is answered more or less in the same manner. Instead of an adjunct symbol the emperor is carrying a spear often seen over his shoulder, a victory or an eagle tipped scepter. Again had these images faced right it is possible that some of these items may obscure the face. Furthmore with the right side being thrust forward it allows the composition to be more balanced. 

Constantine I Ae Follis Siscia 318-319 AD Obv Helmeted bust right cuirassed with spear over right shoulder and shield bearing a mounted rider on his left. Rv. Rv Altar flanked by two victories inscribing a shield between them  RIC 56 var 2.85 grms 18 mm Photo by W. Hansen

conmag314.jpg.a7e4b594807c722e73b5311d253cbe34.jpg

This coin does illustrate some of the things I am trying to convey. The spear being held in his right hand is seen behind his head and does not have the potential of obscuring the face. The hand though foreshortened and somewhat smaller than it should be is still none the less more in scale than it would be if the image was reversed. The upper body of the emperor is seen with the shield being seen further to our right. Thus it again does not obscure the face and does give a nice rendition of the blazon which is upon it.  Despite many flaws this image is nicely balanced.

I like your idea. By the way, I’m pretty sure I recognize this coin… Are you Terence Cheesman ???

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20 hours ago, Ocatarinetabellatchitchix said:

Let’s notice that the left facing helmeted military busts of Constantine from the mint of London during the right star issue can be more common comprising around 10% of the issue discovered in hoards.

Yes, and it seems that what's driving this is the military aspect (in the build-up to Constantine's Italian campaign), which usually implies martial adjuncts in addition to a helmet ... So, with very few exceptions these martial busts are left facing, because they "have" to be. On the rare occasion we have a martial bust without adjuncts, then they rather stand out from this group by being right facing!

image.png.0a24c6063c8fc302253e1910bc13e1c1.png

image.png.ed6e9ebb7af7ec5497c9d15a2fe96ca2.png

 

Edited by Heliodromus
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Bronze coin (AE Antoninianus) with mint mark of XXIB, minted at Siscia during the reign of PROBUS in 277 A.D. Obv. IMP.C.M.AVR.PROBVS.P.F.AVG.: Radiate bust left, wearing imperial mantle and holding eagle-tipped sceptre. Rev. ADVENTVS.PROBI.AVG.: PROBUS on horseback l., raising r. hand, captive seated in front of horse, in ex. XXIB. RCS #3340 RICV #632 pg.85. DVM #8 pg.261.

image.png.80cc4ac421e45446be8abdd06968e652.pngimage.png.891181b762554d8b861a5032fb5788ed.png

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